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A family farming

After more than 100 years under one family in West Linn, Fiala Farms continues to grow


Photo Credit: TIDINGS PHOTO: PATRICK MALEE - Richard Fiala learned Farming 101 as a child growing up as a third generation farmer. Now, his business at Fiala Farms is built upon the principle of educating others about where their food comes from. Richard Fiala likes to say that he learned “Farming 101” as a young child, and that by the time he was a teenager, he was well into the “300 level” classes.

Such was life for Fiala and his three siblings, growing up as third generation farmers on the Fiala Farm in West Linn. They learned the tricks of the trade from their father, Jerry, who likewise had learned from his own father – a Czechoslovakian immigrant who bought the property in 1906.

So even as Richard Fiala carved out a career in the computer business industry, his farming knowledge never left him. The roots were too strong.

Photo Credit: TIDINGS PHOTO: PATRICK MALEE - The 56-acre Fiala Farms property is home to everything from corn to beets, pumpkins, apples and flowers.

When Jerry Fiala died in 2002, he left the farm to Richard and his siblings – Anne, Doug and Wesley. Richard eventually left his business job to work full time on the farm, and together the siblings have grown the property into a hotspot for hyper local fruits and vegetables.

“The idea is to come to the farm, see where it’s grown, see us harvest it some days, and know what you’re getting,” Richard said. “People go to the store and all year long they expect to see produce coolers filled up with product … when you’re on the farm, you get to see what really comes in season.”

The 56-acre farm, which is open annually from July until Oct. 31, has also become known for its pumpkins, flowers and a corn maze for Halloween. The growth has been rapid since the Fialas ramped up their efforts in 2009 — more than 100 years since their grandfather bought the property.

“In 2009, we started really pumping some money into the place,” Richard said. “We wanted to establish infrastructure to get it to the point that in the next 15 or 20 years … the kids take over.”

Photo Credit: TIDINGS PHOTO: PATRICK MALEE - During Fiala Farm's business season, from July to Oct. 31, customers can buy produce, flowers and more direct from the source.

The Fialas built a new 1,200 square foot farm stand, and also added “raised beds” to increase and diversify their produce.

Five years after the Fialas went “all in” on the farm, business continues to grow, and the property glistens when you pull off Johnson Road and head toward the farm stand. And yet, Richard still sees customers pull in and back out without even stepping foot on the farm.

“(There are) people who come in and expect to see bins of cucumbers, bins of apples, like you would see at some farm stands, big operations,” Richard said. “We don’t meet their expectations … we only bring in small quantities a day, and it’s fresh.

“You’re not going to get an apple from us that’s been in a cooler for seven months.”

The Fialas can’t keep people from turning away and rushing back to the comforts of the local supermarket. But they’ve convinced enough local customers to create a thriving business that continues to grow, expanding on the dreams of their grandfather when he bought the land more than a century ago.

“I could have a full complement of produce in here, if I decided to order from one of the produce houses in downtown Portland,” Richard said. “I could have five different types of lettuce, oranges and bananas. We’re not looking to do that.”

Fiala Farms is located at 21231 SW Johnson Road, and open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, visit tricountyfarm.org/farms/fiala-farms.

Photo Credit: TIDINGS PHOTO: PATRICK MALEE - Jerry Fiala, Richard's grandfather, purchased the farm back in 1906. The property still fosters heirloom trees dating as far back as 1868.


By Patrick Malee
Reporter
503-636-1281 ex
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